The Canucks will begin their season Thursday night (vs. Calgary, 10:30 p.m. ET, CBC) on a somber note, honoring the memory of defenseman Luc Bourdon
, killed in May in a motorcycle accident this summer near his hometown of Shippagan, New Brunswick.
The ceremony before the game against Calgary will feature a video tribute and a moment of silence. Fans will receive a commemorative pin. Bourdon, 21, was the 10th pick in the 2005 Entry Draft.
"We want to make sure that everyone who Luc touched has the opportunity to celebrate his life and memory," Canucks President Chris Zimmerman said. "Luc will be forever a Canuck."
Bourdon can't be replaced off the ice, and the Canucks are still working to replace him on it.
"Luc would have brought an element here that clearly we're missing, and we're trying to address it," General Manager Mike Gillis told the Globe and Mail. "I don't know if we've gone far enough here. Time will tell."
This week, Gillis swung a four-player trade with Tampa Bay to fortify the Canucks' blue line. Gillis dealt defenseman Lukas Krajicek
and a minor-league forward to the Lightning for defenseman Shane O'Brien
and forward Michel Oullet. The main claim to fame for the 25-year-old O'Brien is his 330 penalty minutes in 158 NHL games.
"Obviously, throughout my career, I've been known to get in there and mix it up a little bit," O'Brien said. "I'll definitely bring a little toughness and will compete every night."
But O'Brien is being looked at as a sixth defenseman. Canucks coach Alain Vigneault
had expected Bourdon to be in his top four.
"Once the Luc accident happened, we had to make some adjustments," Vigneault told the Globe and Mail. "We never shied away from the fact that on (defense), we thought if we could get a little more grit, we would like to do that."
Groundhog day --
During his first stint as Avalanche coach from 2002-04, Tony Granato
had the best regular-season record in franchise history -- 72-33-17-11, a .647 winning percentage. But the Avalanche won only one of three playoff series during Granato's tenure, and that wasn't good enough.
Now, Granato is back for another try. And after a solid preseason, Granato is eagerly anticipating the start of his second kick at the can Thursday night vs. Boston (10 p.m. ET, VERSUS).
"I think we did the things we wanted to in training camp," Granato told the Denver Post. "You want your players focused and as confident and ready for the season as you can. And I think when you win games, it makes everybody feel better about themselves."
The line to watch on this team is the trio of Ryan Smyth
, Milan Hejduk
and Paul Stastny
. But the combination of venerable Joe Sakic
, Wojtek Wolski
and newcomer Darcy Tucker
doesn't sound bad, either. On paper, the Avalanche should be able to score a healthy number of goals.
"I like the way our players worked and competed in camp, and I think we got better as we went along," Granato said.
Contract year --
It's an annual rite in the Northwest Division. Two years ago, the Oilers had to deal with the impending free-agent status of Ryan Smyth
. They were coming off a visit to the Stanley Cup Final, but the Smyth situation knocked them off-kilter, and they ended up trading him and missing the playoffs.
Last season, the Flames began the year dealing with two key players nearing the ends of their contracts. They managed to re-sign Jarome Iginla
and Miikka Kiprusoff
with relatively little commotion, but didn't make it through the first round of the playoffs.
This year, it's the Wild's turn, and the player they are trying to get under contract is star forward Marian Gaborik
. It's hard to say which way this one will go.
The Wild are not optimistic about signing Gaborik to a new deal by the start of the season. And when asked if he would consider putting Gaborik on the trading block, Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough didn't rule it out.
"That, I'll have to determine," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Gaborik told the newspaper he has told his agent, Ron Salcer, his first choice would be to remain with the Wild.
"I've said numerous times, 'Ronnie, just deal with them. Ronnie, I want to get the deal done,' " Gaborik told the Star Tribune. "So that's where we are. But we can't control what they do."
The pressing question for fans of the Wild is what effect this will have on the team in the short term.
"I don't think this will be a distraction for the team," Risebrough told the Star Tribune. "We wanted to put this behind us because people are going to ask me (about it) every day, and they're going to ask him every day. That's the distraction, but not for the team."
New face in Calgary --
"All of us deserve a second chance. And I don't worry about people disagreeing with decision-making aspects of making a team better. I mean, he's a good athlete and a good hockey player."
-- Mike Keenan on Todd Bertuzzi
Among the Flames' newcomers is wing Todd Bertuzzi
, whose positive on-ice accomplishments forever will be overshadowed by the sucker punch he threw as a member of the Canucks that ended the career of Colorado's Steve Moore.
Bertuzzi says he long ago gave up trying to win over those who can't forget the incident more than four years ago, which cost him a 20-game suspension and nearly $1 million in salary and endorsements.
"I don't think it's up for me to come out and try and change every single person's perspective on me," Bertuzzi told the Calgary Herald. "People are either going to like you or they don't like you. That's the way it is. I'll be away from the game for a long time, and I'll be forgotten. All that negative stuff and all that, what are you going to do?"
Flames coach Mike Keenan told the Herald, "All of us deserve a second chance. And I don't worry about people disagreeing with decision-making aspects of making a team better. I mean, he's a good athlete and a good hockey player."
The Moore case is not over. Moore's family sued Bertuzzi and a mediator is scheduled to meet with the parties in December.
Center of attention --
At 31, Oilers forward Fernando Pisani
is making a significant adjustment this season. After spending most of his career as a right wing, the Oilers are working to convert him to a center.
The objective is for Pisani to play between Ethan Moreau
and Dustin Penner
"I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable there," Pisani told the Edmonton Sun. "I'm getting a little more confident in faceoffs. Just being in that position is something to get used to, and I think every day I practice I'm feeling more confident in that position."
The offseason addition of Erik Cole
coupled with the departures of Jarret Stoll
and Marty Reasoner
left the Oilers deeper on the wing, but looking for help in the faceoff circle. Based on preseason performance, however, Pisani has some work to do. He won only 16 of the 59 draws he took in the exhibition schedule.
"As a winger you don't really hone in on those skills, or appreciate them," Pisani told the Sun. "Now being there, you have the appreciation for that spot."